Faces of WEF 2024

Faces of WEF 2024

The Winter Equestrian Festival has once again returned to the Wellington International showgrounds for its 12-week run. From the graceful movements as a horse and rider soar over a fence, to the quiet of the crowd as it counts down the seconds to the cheers after a successful ride, all the action is open to spectators from far and near. They will delight as the skillful pairs navigate complicated sequences and make hairpin turns. Riders have come to Wellington this winter from all corners of the globe to compete at the longest and richest horse show series in the world. As these riders — from international champions to amateurs and juniors — put their abilities to the test, aiming for the blue ribbon, Wellington The Magazine once again presents our annual Faces of WEF section. Over the next few pages, you’ll get a glimpse at just a handful of the amazing riders competing this season at Wellington International, from Olympic-caliber superstars to up-and-coming riders who will one day be the stars of tomorrow.

Ben Maher
Olympic gold medalist Ben Maher rides for Great Britain and has competed in four Olympic Games. He is currently ranked second in the Longines Rankings and second in the FEI Jumping World Cup Standings (Western European League). With more than 160 wins under his belt, Maher is back in action at the Winter Equestrian Festival this year. He got off to an impressive start, riding Enjeu de Grisien to victory in the $140,000 Southern Arches CSI3* Grand Prix at the first Saturday Night Lights grand prix of the season.

Kent Farrington
Kent Farrington, who has been riding since age eight, turned pro in 1999 and has been winning ever since. Originally from Chicago, he was on the gold winning U.S. team at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara and took the team bronze at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. He also won a team bronze at the 2014 WEG in Normandy. In 2016, Farrington earned Olympic silver with the U.S. team in Rio. He is currently third in the Longines Rankings and can frequently be found in the winner’s circle at WEF.

Mclain Ward
One of the most decorated U.S. riders, New York native McLain Ward is a perennial fan favorite. A five-time Olympian and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Ward is currently ranked ninth on the Longines Rankings. He is a frequent winner at WEF. He had a particularly good Week 5 last year, when Ward topped a field of 67 in the CHF75,000 CaptiveOne Advisors CSI5* 1.50m Classic to be the first rider to win both the grand prix and 1.50m classic back-to-back at WEF since 2014. He later won the $146,000 CaptiveOne Advisors CSI4* 1.50m Series Final.

Richard Vogel
From an equestrian family, German rider Richard Vogel has been on horses since age four. He began competing at the age of seven, achieving international success in 2010 when he won the junior European championship in Sweden. He later won the 2018 FEI World Cup Final in Paris aboard Ragna. Currently 10th on the Longines Rankings, Vogel has had plenty of success at WEF. This includes winning the $500,000 Rolex CSI5* Grand Prix with mount Cepano Baloubet during the final Saturday Night Lights of WEF 2023

Shane Sweetnam
Shane Sweetnam is an Irish equestrian who began his Grand Prix career at age 16 and has since participated in classes in both North America and Europe. He won the team gold medal at the 2017 FEI European Championships in Gothenburg and later represented Ireland at the Olympics in Tokyo. He is currently 12th on the Longines Rankings and second in the FEI Jumping World Cup Standings (North American League). Here in Wellington, Sweetnam operates Sweet Oak Farm with his wife Ali and is a frequent WEF competitor.

Daniel Coyle
Irish show jumper Daniel Coyle is currently ranked 14th on both the Longines Rankings and the FEI Jumping World Cup Standings (North American League). From a horse-loving family, he jumped his first Grand Prix at age 12. Coyle had several wins last season at WEF. He started off on the right foot during Premiere Week as part of the men’s team that won the popular Battle of the Sexes, and continued with many other great showings, including winning the $226,000 JTWG Inc. CSIO4* Grand Prix with Ivory TCS during Week 8.

Conor Swail
Irish native Conor Swail is a frequent rider on the WEF circuit. He is currently ranked 16th on the Longines Rankings and fourth in the FEI Jumping World Cup Standings (North American League). Swail, who is proud of winning the 2022 Nations Cup as part of the Irish team at the Dublin Horse Show, is a crowd favorite at WEF. Last year, he won the CHF216,000 MARS Equestrian CSI4* Grand Prix with his mount Count Me In during Week 4. He also rode Casturano to victory in the $146,000 Bainbridge Companies CSI3* Grand Prix during the 2023 Spring Series.

Darragh Kenny
The son of two trainers, Irish rider Darragh Kenny began competing at the age of 10 and competed in his first Grand Prix at 14. He soon began working with North Run Farm under Missy Clark and John Brennan. With their help, Kenny was able to ride Obelix, a horse that guided him to the top level of the sport. He is currently 17th in the Longines Rankings. After capping 2023 winning the $226,000 Bainbridge Companies CSI4* Grand Prix, Kenny jumped out to the front with back-to-back wins during Week 1 of WEF 2024.

Laura Kraut
Laura Kraut has represented the U.S. at the Olympic Games four times, winning team gold at Hong Kong in 2008 with Cedric, and in 2021, Kraut was part of the silver medal-winning U.S. team in Tokyo with Baloutinue. With more than 100 Grand Prix wins, she has also represented the U.S. at the World Equestrian Games, winning team silver at Aachen in 2006 and team gold at Tryon in 2018. She has been a familiar face at WEF for decades. Last season, Kraut and Baloutinue won the $425,000 Lugano Diamonds CSI5* Grand Prix during Week 7.

Tiffany Foster
Show jumper Tiffany Foster is currently 24th on the Longines FEI World Rankings, making her the highest ranked Canadian rider. Foster originally hails from North Vancouver and now splits her time competing out of bases in Langley, British Columbia; Antwerp, Belgium; and here in Wellington. She represented Canada at the 2012 Olympics in London, and the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where Team Canada placed fourth. Most recently, she helped Team Canada take the team silver at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.